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KiOR levee construction in the works

Published 12:08am Saturday, March 23, 2013

NATCHEZ — The groundwork has been laid for the literal groundwork to start on the KiOR levee project near the Adams County Port.

The levee — which Adams County committed to build as part of the recruitment of the company — will protect the former Belwood Country Club, the property on which KiOR plans to build its alternative fuels production facility.

Engineer Doug Wimberly, who works with the county’s engineering firm, Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions, said Friday that the design process for the levee is in its final stages.

“Right now, we are kind of in a holding pattern — waiting for the county to get their bond funds and the company to sign a memorandum of understanding with the county — to move forward,” Wimberly said.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ has previously said the levee work will not move forward until the county signs a memorandum of understanding with the company about its commitment.

When KiOR announced its plans for Adams County, the company said its plans would create 320 direct and indirect jobs and would result in a $350 million investment in the area.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the county is also waiting for the memorandum to be signed before it moves forward on taking out a bond for the levee construction, which has an estimated cost of $5 million.

“We have gone through our processes,” Grennell said. “It is a matter of our bond counsel doing whatever it needs to in order to go ahead and get it done.”

The county will receive a $2 million grant from the Mississippi Development Authority for the levee and has advertised its intention to take out a bond for as much as $7 million.

But before the bond can be issued, the county will have to receive bids on the levee design.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said the process is like getting pre-approved for a loan, and that the county won’t necessarily have to spend all of the money for which it is pre-approved.

“It is like we went to the bank to get pre-approved for a car,” he said. “After we have found the car, we have to go back to the bank and tell them how much we need.”

Wimberly said construction of the levee is expected to take six months.

KiOR announced earlier this week that it had sent its first shipments of fuel from its plant in Columbus, a benchmark company officials had said needed to be reached before they moved forward on the Adams County project.